As it turned out, the best defense is a little ball control.
Raishod Devezin spearheaded the Eagles’ ground-control attack, carrying the ball 28 times for 274 yards and five touchdowns, as Etowah cruised to a 48-20 victory at Northcutt Stadium.
Etowah’s seven ball-carriers combined for 483 yards.
While a few scampers came in chunks later in the night, it was incremental gains of 4, 5 and 7 yards that kept the chains moving, and the Blue Devils’ young defense frustrated.
“We run the football,” Svehla said. “We’re not always going to have the big play, so I think on a night like (Friday), if we can put together a seven- or eight-play drive, we can wear the defense out.
“(Devezin) did a good job of being patient, but I also felt like our offensive line got after it, gave him some places to run, and once he had the space, he did plenty on his own, too.”
Benson, was held to just 35 yards on 10 carries, while Martin gained 25 on six carries and was 9-of-19 passing for 99 yards — 43 coming on one deep pass.
The game was closer in the first half, with Devezin and Benson trading touchdowns to make it 7-all.
Devezin scored from 7 yards to give Etowah a 14-7 lead at halftime. Etowah continued its ground attack into the third quarter, opening the second half with a long drive that culminated with Taurean Bowe’s 13-yard touchdown.
Trailing 21-7 with just over 8 minutes left, Marietta upped the tempo, electing to take a deep shot, but Martin’s pass was picked off by Trevor James and returned 40 yards to Marietta’s 35-yard line, setting up another Devezin score.
Martin connected with Dewayne Smith for a 43-yard touchdown on the following possession, setting the score at 28-14, but the Blue Devils couldn’t score the rest of the way.
Svehla attributed his team’s ability to pull away to his team’s preparation for warm game-time temperatures.
“We were pretty well-conditioned, and our kids played hard through the night, even though it was pretty hot,” Svehla said.
Burton didn’t think conditioning was an issue, but he did see his young roster go through some growing pains.
“Etowah is a big, strong team, and they leaned on us pretty heavy (Friday),” Burton said. “We’ve got a bunch of young guys that really need to have more experience and reps to figure out what Friday night football is all about, but the good news is we have a room full of fighters who care deeply about this program and this community. I’m looking forward to practice on Monday, because I know what I’m going to get out of these young men.”